Guest Reporter: TP
For the away trip to high-flying Chatham Town, the Chichester management team made just the one change to the side that won at home in the league last time out against Hythe Town as Ryan Davidson returned for the injured Emmett Dunn.
The hosts’ impressive facilities are rumoured by their own fans to have an impressive budget to match, and Chi set up with a familiar back five of Kieran Magee, Ben Pashley, Connor Cody, Rob Hutchings and Davidson. Midfield comprised Lloyd Rowlett, Adam Biss, Ethan Robb and Joe Clarke, with Ethan Prichard and skipper Josh Clack up top.
Chatham started brightly full of confidence, breaking through the Chi back line in the first minute only for Cody to step in smartly and usher the ball to Magee.
Chi quickly countered with quick feet by Prichard down the right earning a corner. This short routine led to a cross that the Kent-based keeper claimed.
On eight minutes Chats’ captain Jack Evans swung a deep delivery into the back post which was dealt with by Pashley, but resulted in a corner. A short one from the training ground allowed Prince Domafriyie to get to the byline, although Pashley handled his cut-back to the spot comfortably again.
11 minutes in, Cody allowed a ball to gently roll across for a goal kick, but the referee gave a corner, leaving most of the ground dumbfounded. This was to occur several times during the game.
At this point the hosts were in command with Chichester struggling to keep the ball.
However, over the next 10 minutes or so the visitors rolled up their sleeves and slowly started to gain control of the centre of the park, and an excellent defence frustrated the long ball tactics adopted by the hosts to circumvent midfield as multiple offside flags resulted.
Chatham were forced into a CB swap on 34, and the last 10 minutes of the first half belonged to Chi.
Good pressing and honest endeavour up front produced half chances for Prichard, Rowlatt and a lovely clip by Robb which drifted just wide of the post, with the keeper in no man’s land.
At the half time whistle the home crowd were clearly frustrated with the lack of opportunities they had seen from their team after a flying start.
Post the break, the hosts again started quickly – Davidson picking up a card for a challenge on Domafriyie. The free-kick was worked short, and captain Evans ran across the edge of the box, unleashing a shot which Magee tipped over. The following corner was part cleared and the subsequent shot skewed wide.
On 51 minutes Chi worked the ball forward to Rowlatt who, with his back to goal 20-yards out, feigned left, spun right and took two paces forward into the space his dropped shoulder had created. A crafted left foot clip went top bins, finding the corner.
The locals said the keeper would not have saved it all week – a quality strike.
The next 10 minutes saw several Chatham attempts to break the Chi back line, all met with a flag.
The hosts rang the changes once more swapping forward Fabio Saraiva for Joshua Ogunseye.
This was swiftly followed by another mystery corner, which Chi dealt with.
Down the other end, on 63 minutes, Robb got slid in by a quick free-kick, although his pull-back was eventually cleared.
Clack won the ball moments later and sent out a pass to the right wing for a Clarke volley that brought a good clean save from the keeper. His attempted early drop kick (yes teams still do these) was impeded and a melee ensued, with both Clarke and the Chats’ custodian going into the book.
The hosts took off Dan Bradshaw and replaced him with Dan Thompson – playing a front four and long ball stuff.
67 in and the Chi line was eventually breached by a long diagonal and well-timed run, only for a combination of ricochet, Davidson, Magee and Pashley to clear for a real corner. This produced a frenzied 15 seconds of corner, header out, shot, Magee save.
Chi then had a period of ball control and time high up the pitch which ended with a Hutchings’ ping at goal which blazed over the woodwork.
The game was now in a punch/counter-punch phase.
An injured Robb was exchanged for Callum Overton who slotted in up top as Chi re-shaped.
The hosts’ equaliser came five minutes from time amidst a share of controversy as a consequence of another phantom corner – the follow-up bundled into the net with Magee and his Chi defenders adamant he was held onto. This was given credence when the scorer admitted it afterwards in the bar.
Chi still pushed and had a corner on 88 which was cleared. Chatham piled forward, spurning a three-on-one, but credit to Hutchings for his excellent hold-up play.
The hosts then wasted a lovely cross when Domafriyie headed over the bar.
The five minutes of extra time proved to be decisive. Another corner was awarded to Chatham with the ball nodded goal bound, Hutchings cleared off the line, behind a diving Magee, to outside the box where Robins steered a weak shot back into the net.
The 500 home fans went wild.
Chi probed in the last four minutes but failed to score another.
At the end it was like a promotion parade for the hosts, who knew they had got away with one.
This was a tough result for Chi to swallow, but a solid performance nevertheless against a side who had racked up a huge points total last season.
Chi now go on a run of fixtures against top eight sides, with the next fixture away at fourth place VCD Athletic.
Chichester – Magee, Davidson, Hutchings, Robb, Cody, Pashley, Rowlatt, Biss, Clack, Clarke, Prichard (Hyde, Moore, Bello, Overton, Haitham).